3. Charitable giving is more sustainable when donors can also benefit from it in the long-run. In Mbrella, you don’t donate alone: instead, you support one Kenyan family together with five other donors. This way, more Americans (including the low-income) can join the initiative since it costs only $10 per person. Donors will also be invited to be part of a curious community who discuss and get updated regularly about specific behavioral change interventions. Here, they can learn about how Mbrella applies behavioral science to generate ideas and gather evidence to validate and tweak those ideas. According to Jiang’s vision, these insights should also inspire the donors’ to take actions in their own lives to make better decisions. “Behavioral science is instrumental to many of us who are keen to learn, grow, and acquire good habits to become wealthier and healthier.”
Jiang’s vision for Mbrella weren't the result of her academic experiences, but developed out of her work as Principal of Global Health and Development at the “Center for Advanced Hindsight”, the renowned behavioral science lab at Duke University. At the center, whose mission it is to “Make people happier, healthier and wealthier with behavioral science, at home and abroad”, she spearheaded several initiatives to help low-income Kenyans save more for healthcare. In one of these, which was done in collaboration with the Joep Lange Institute and the PharmAccess Foundation, two foundations based in the Netherlands, Jiang and her team applied CAH’s behavioral science framework and generated many proven product improvement solutions for the mobile health tech product MTIBA. Meanwhile, they also experimented with games and gamification to develop cutting-edge behavioral change solutions to help the low-income make better financial decisions. One of these, an educational game called “Healthy Money”, enables even illiterate parts of the population, ranging from teenagers to middle-aged mothers, to discover and experience the consequences of myopic financial decisions in an emotionally engaging way. The game aims to improve both the understanding of why saving for later is important, what is good and bad spending (in the interest of long-run wealth), and how to act on the improved understanding.
When she saw the potential impact that behavioral science interventions such as a planning calendar or a game could have to help the low-income grow their savings, she became increasingly excited about giving Mbrella, a behavioral science spin-off, its own life. Since March 1st, 2019, she shifted most of her time to prepare for the launch of Mbrella, which is planned for this summer.
However, choosing intentionally to help others isn’t always easy. Three years back she lost her baby as she worked too much taking no notice of how little she ate and slept during the first trimester. It can also flip the life upside down and derail one's schedule. “I haven’t truly figured out yet how to balance work and life…, but since I discovered Argentinian Tango, I feel more balanced,” says Jiang. Now when she isn’t busy changing lives, Ting can be found dancing the Argentine Tango, which she likes to think of as “An art form of a hug between two humans that moves to express the music”. For her, it is not only a great way to unwind or stay fit, but it also helped her learn a lot about management and leadership. “It’s in Tango where I also learned valuable lessons about setting clear intentions for my actions and my dancing partner; to fully embrace and trust any stranger coming my way without any judgment and discover how unique everyone is and how unrelated their appearance is to their quality of communication via dance; and how blessed I feel being embraced and trusted by another human when flowing with the music”, says Jiang, “The music is beautiful, rich and unpredictable, which sometimes brings me to tears while I dance”. In order to find peace and relieve the stress she usually prefers taking a walk in nature—staring at trees, smelling plants and flowers—or swimming in slightly heated water. If given the opportunity, she would treasure the chance of dining out with Alain de Botton (among the living ones) and Michelangelo (among the dead).